How the General Chiropractic Council Conducts an investigation

coats-on-sun Put simply I was thrown off the GCC council for calling Margaret Coats a liar, and informing the president of the BCA, Tony Metcalf, The President of the SCA Ross MacDonald and the President of the UCA Frank McBride of my thoughts on GCC due process Coats and Dixon

I withdrew the allegation after my lawyers explained to me why it was a mistake to accuse an honourable woman like Margaret Coats of lying and misleading the chiropractic profession. I had no choice after another honourable man Peter Dixon and thirteen honourable GCC council members agreed with Peter that Margaret had not lied and my e-mail had defamed her. On reflection and as Kevin Grant would later point out, Coats is too experienced an operator to make a mistake like that. The devil was in the detail. I wish to make absolutely clear to eagle eyed GCC lawyers, I was mistaken when I accused Coats of lying to Council at the February meeting and in this posting I am describing the factual events which resulted in my removal from council.

After the February 2008 Meeting of the General Chiropractic Council, I sent an e-mail to council members. Titled; “Margaret lied to council”, I repeated what I had written in my notes at the meeting. I always took notes at meetings as Dixon and Coats refuse to record meetings. Dixon relies on Coats to provide her version of events for council minutes ( which I will tell you about another day) and this time would be no different.

In my e-mail, initially sent exclusively to council members I wrongly accused Margaret Coats of lying when she told Council members that “there was was no evidence that  Greg Price (her former deputy) had posted derogatory comments about chiropractors on the internet”.  At the council meeting I had demanded that the GCC apologise to the chiropractic profession for the for the derogatory comments Price had made and Coats was having none of it).

My e-mail went on to state; “there is no reason now that the GCC can not apologise to all those registered chiropractors that our employee (Greg Price) insulted. Our Chairman is concerned about the risk of Terry Rondberg suing the GCC over these postings,  I guess Its for the GCC now to decide who poses the greater risk to council, Margaret Coats or Terry Rondberg”.  I finished off by saying  “one thing is now certain I would not be attending another meeting with Margaret Coats again. Graham Heale saw this as me “falling on my sword”, I  hoped that by putting myself in this position the Chiropractic profession would see how the GCC operated and say enough is enough. Unfortunately chiropractors are not going to give up their zero VAT rating that easily.

What happened next goes to the very core of the regulatory methodology of the GCC. Margaret Coats informed Peter Dixon that what she actually said was “there was was no evidence that Greg Price had posted derogatory comments about chiropractors on US websites from a GCC server”. I did not hear her say the last part and if I had, would have attached little importance to it because I knew there was plenty of evidence that Greg Price had posted derogatory messages about registered chiropractors  on the internet from the GCC server. If Coats did not know, it was because she had not looked at the “Evidence” Dana Greene had given her in mid 2006 (the time and dates postings were made by Greg price on US websites) which one would have thought would come under dereliction of duty by the Chief Executive of the GCC.

Looking back it is extraordinary that a regulatory body, that the public believes subscribes to the Nolan Principles of Public office would cover up the misdeeds of Greg Price in this manner and turn a blind eye to him gaining work at another health regulator with a reference from the GCC. The accuracy of what Margaret Coats said rather than its meaning, was the fig leaf council members would focus on to continue the cover up.

Peter Dixon can not claim ignorance in gathering evidence, for example when the GCC investigated leaks from the GCC they got a lawyer to interview every member of council separately so the statements would be objective, at the very least he should have simply asked council members for their recollections of what Coats had said and asked them not to discuss the matter with each other until he had completed his investigation. Then he should have advised council members that he had the dates and times Prices postings were made on work days and he would check if Greg Price was in the building at the time. If only to protect the GCC from litigation from, The NBCE state board examiners in the US, or chiropractic colleges like Palmer, Life, Parker or RMIT in Austrialia .

For example Price stated on Chirotalk- The Skeptical Chiropractic Discussion forum, that "50% of overseas graduates were failing the GCC test of competency and he believed this was an indication of the poor quality of students these colleges were producing. “What does this say about the level of teaching in the US and in particular the state board exam, which Price felt was no match for the UK test of competency administered by the Welsh institute of Chiropractic. On April 21 2005 at 10.22 he described chiropractors as “operating as back cracking therapists not doctors”.

Perhaps the honourable Peter Dixon did not want objectivity in this matter. On receiving my e-mail to council members he immediately forward a copy to Margaret Coats and copied his opinion on it to council members, the honourable Christina Cunliffe and Honourable Judith Worthington, stating; “Richard Lanigan sent this message to council yesterday. This is simply not tolerable, and I intend to take immediate action. My first question to you is do I have the power to immediately suspend him from council pending a written resolution for his removal from council. If so I intend to do it as soon as possible”.

Two days later, presumably after a few telephone telephone conversations, Coats e-mailed Dixon, Cunliffe and Worthington. From the e-mail one can gather That Dixon, had already expressed the opinion that my comments were libellous. Coats states she had spoken to Peter Dixon earlier in the day. So it is reasonable to conclude that her e-mail response to my allegation was purely for the benefit of Worthington and Cunliffes recollections of the meeting.

In this e-mail Margaret Coats states; “I refute absolutely this allegation that I lied to council. What I said in respect of the websites other than was there was no evidence that postings were made from the GCC server. In the letter to which Mr Lanigan refers, Mr Price stated that he could not recall whether he had made postings on the stop Rondberg and Chiro Skeptics websites from GCC offices. And GCC has never been contacted by the administration of either of those sites”.

Coats did not need the “sites administrators” to prove this. Dana Greene had given Coats the postings in mid 2006 for her to investigate all she had to do was check was Price at work when he  made the postings on the forum. Remember the only reason the GCC had been contacted by the administrators of  the chiropractic-uk forums was because the GCC were seeking a high court order to reveal the identity of site members who had expressed anti GCC sentiments and Price was provoking comment on the forums from GCC offices.

In his resignation letter Price stated “I admit that my conduct in relation to the posting of messages on the internet was stupid and inappropriate and accept my position is no longer tenable”. In his second resignation letter he states “ As requested I am writing to confirm that I did post some messages on the “Stop Rondberg” and Chiro Skeptical” websites. I honestly cannot recall whether or not any of the messages were posted from the GCC offices.

I never could quiet understand why  Price was asked to submit a second resignation letter, was it to give his line manager a little wiggle room when questioned. The issue should have been that Greg Price, the Chief executive and Registrars right hand man, had disparaged a number of Chiropractors on the internet. He was involved in administering complaints being made by members of the public which had damaged the reputations of a number of chiropractors and an independent investigation into his activities was called for. A number of council members , Dana Greene, Kevin Proudman, Matt Flanagan, Rita Lewis, Dorothy Grace Elder, Kevin Grant etc etc, had tried to raise this over the years and they were all put down. There was clear evidence that Price had posted from GCC offices. Coats defence was Price did not remember whether he did the postings from the GCC offices on the US websites, not mentioning that Price could not remember making postings on the chiropractic-uk forums. If Price had said he had not posted anything that would have been a lie, not being able to remember is being economical with the truth, subtle difference yes but very important for the smoke and mirrors of GCC regulatory due process and defamation lawyers.

On the 14th of February I received a letter in the post from Peter Dixon. The letter was dated the 12th of February.

“In response to your recent e-mail, in my capacity as chairman of the meeting to which you are refer, it is my recollection that Margaret specifically refered to the fact that there was no evidence that any postings on any website, other than, were made from the GCC server”. Therfore I do not accept that Margaret lied”.

That afternoon, I received an e mail from Peter stating; Council members all agree that Margaret said there was no evidence of Greg Price using a GCC server to make postings on US websites.

I could not understand how Dixon had got his answers so quickly. How could council members all be so certain of what Coats had said? Why were they focusing on US servers and where the postings were written, rather than the GCC management was covering up Prices activity and refusing to apologise to the chiropractic profession for the actions of a rogue employee.

What I did not know is that Dixon had e-mailed my letter to all council members as an attachment two days previously. He made no mention of this in my letter, presumably to give him time to influence council members recollections of what Coats had said at the meeting and make sure the investigation was about Richard Lanigan rather than Price and Coats.

Dixon wrote to council members Dear Colleagues,

“This is the letter that I have sent to Richard Lanigan in response to his recent e-mail. Clearly this is a matter that will be discussed with relation to the minutes but I would be grateful to know now, while memories are fresh, if you can recall accurately what was said on the specific point of the GCC server”

and if their memories were not as fresh as Dixon and Coats they now had Dixons “recollections” to help them “recall accurately” ; “Margaret specifically refered to the fact that there was no evidence that any postings on any website, other than, were made from the GCC server”

Dixon sent his e-mail out at midday first to respond to him was Chris Stephens the medical doctor on council. He had not been at the meeting his comment “what a nightmare – I do feel sorry for you having to wade through it all” Best wishes Chris.

Chris Stevens sent his e-mail exclusively to Dixon as did Linda Stones. “Dear Peter, My recollection of what was said accords with your letter”. Hardly  objective testimony.

At 13.30 Christina Cunliffe who had the questionable benefit of having already received Coats recollections of what was said, and one would presume from the e-mails had made some comment to Dixon about it. Wrote – “I am certain Margaret said that there was no evidence that the posting on other websites were made from the GCC server, because I thought at the time that her words were deliberately precise”. Not only that, she copied her recollections to all council members, no doubt to help refresh their memories for the witch hunt. 

Alan Breen responded exclusively to Dixon; My recollection is the same as Christinas.

David Byfield wrote “This represents my recollection of events. I didn’t take notes but Margaret was very precise in response to the request, this was also sent to all council members.

Barry Lewis parroted David; Margaret was very careful and precise in what she said and I concur with your interpretation.

Marisa Pinnock My recollection is that Margaret was very considered in her reply, and her words were chosen carefully.

Martin Caple (a former senior policeman who should have know better” Hello Peter This is my recollection of what was said, I agree.

Mike Kondraki stated Margaret had referred to no evidence off communication in relation to there GCC server and other websites. Its worth pointing out that some of the postings made by Price were defending Mikes Kondrakis right to sit on the PCC when he had not been very successful at maintaining professional boundaries with his students at AECC.

Kalim Mehrabi “Peter I recall as per your letter”.

Graham Heale “I believe she stated that there was no evidence of any such postings from the GCC server”

Marc Cashley; my recollection accords completely with Christina.

Finally we had the words of the deputy chair Judith Worthington “Margaret Choose her words carefully and emphasised that there was no evidence that the postings on other websites were made from the GCC server. Give Christina Cunclife credit she used different wording than Margaret Coats had used in her e-mail to them, Worthington practically cut and pasted her response from Coats e-mail.

The only Council member to raise a question was Kevin Grant. He made the point that because Coats had used this red herring previously. “ because she has said this before and was therfore rehearsed as to what there is and is not evidence for. He added it is a small place to hide to say there is no evidence that postings wete made from the GCC computer. If Margraets was so carefull to be that precise then Richards accusation would be of being economical with the truth rather than lying”.

 Retrospectively the most honourable course of action would appear to have been taken by lay members Carl Lago, Rita Lewis and Dorothy Grace Elder who ignored Peters e-mail. None of them were re appointed to the new reformed GCC unlike good committee people like Martin Caple, Chris Stevens, Judith Worthington.

Unfortunately, the final piece of the jigsaw is held by Dixon and Coats as to whether Price was at work when postings were being made. I requested this information as part of my defence at my removal hearing. The honourable Dixon wrote  “the detail around Mr Prices employment is not relevant to the resolution that I have put to council”.

I was removed from council on March 3 2008 by 13 votes to four. I was not allowed to vote Dorthy Grace Aelder and Rita Lewis did not attend the hearing. My statement to Council lasted 55 minutes and is in four parts on this blog.

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